Casino Royale

Casino Royale Poster

Rating: ★★★★½

I remember the first time I saw Casino Royale. Seeing Daniel Craig for the first time with his short cut hair, his lean muscular body and his ape-like jumping motions were odd to me. In some manner, I perceived it as an outrageous blasphemy to Bond films. I grew up seeing James Bond as a man who was smooth and relaxed. He always had an escape plan, and he appears to be a step ahead of his megalomaniac counterparts.

I was constantly being badgered by friends of mine saying that this was an exceptional Bond film, so I went home and gave it another chance. Gradually, I noticed that this Bond film really grew into me. I started to appreciate the rebirth and transformation of this template character. The opening scene done by Martin Campbell was somehow borrowed from the 40’s gangster films with its canted shots and grainy black and white feel. It was a detour from the formula it normally operates in which was Bond goes to bad guy’s lair, Bond’s cover gets blown, Bond shoots a lot of people and blows a ton of stuff into bits and he escapes by the skin of his teeth (normally he inserts a pun during the getaway).

Casino Royale

When Bond gets back into the office, he talks to M after sending him to another mission to investigate and shoot people. (I often wonder how he made his after-action report).

Here we see Bond as a rookie, being recently promoted to his “00” status, M perceives him as a reckless liability to the service. He’s tasked to track down a group of terrorists trying get funding from a poker game. I don’t play poker, nor do I understand the little nuances that make a good poker game, but I do understand that if Bond loses, terrorists and genocidal African people are gonna be richer because of Bond’s mishap with his bluffs. Judi Dench has been granted more dialogue and teeth unlike in the previous films where she was just paid to worry and bark orders at other MI6 agents. Bond gets to have his fair share of women in this movie, one is a replica of Penelope Cruz and the other is Vesper Lynd, a sarcastic accountant from the Royal Treasury keeping an eye on Bond’s cash played by Eva Green.

The Bond franchise does drive around with this common argument with superhero movies: you’ve got to have a good villain, a guy that didn’t come from a box you ordered from 1-800 HENCHMEN, a guy as good as the articulate and unbelievably mad Mr. Silver in Skyfall, who reminds me a lot of Christoph Waltz’s “The Jew Hunter” from The Inglorious Basterds. Here it was an OK villain; he goes by the name of Le Chiffre, sufficient in playing his role in the grand scheme of things, no world domination and rule-the-entire-planet-Earth type of deal.

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Casino Royale showed us that Bond is a man. He bleeds, he makes mistakes he expresses genuine love I have never seen in an espionage thriller and suffers the consequences. There’s a scene that involves Bond saying how much he loves Vesper, and of all the Bonds, he’s the only actor who could pull this delicate and sincere line without making anyone grin or laugh in the movie house.

After much thought and reflection, I’ve come to a conclusion that Casino Royale has to be one of the best Bonds ever made. And as for Daniel Craig, he’s does the Bond franchise an irrefutable tribute. But I just have to say, Sean Connery does puns and one liners really, really well.

The actions scenes here are superb, far from the evidently rehearsed explosions and fist fights demonstrated by the ones before it. Daniel Craig and Martin Campbell have done an awesome execution of unpredictable fight scenes like the one involving Bond throwing a pistol at the face of the bomb maker he was after. Not only that, he unexpectedly smashes through walls and smacks a guy’s forehead on a bronze bust. I believe that this movie would appeal to people who were tired of the Bond formula that has been going on for years. On the other hand this would be hated by people who do not really care about Bond’s humanity, I used to be one of those and I deeply regret it.

One last thing, I realized that the accounting and applied sciences department of MI6 must’ve been pissed with Bond losing and damaging so many of Her Majesty’s property.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers 4 PosterRating: ★★★★★

Forget about the title “Best Action Director of All Time”; Michael Bay is King of the World. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is a spectacle of sight and sound, of genius and art, of expression and imagination. It is everything we hope for in a giant alien robot action movie, but pumped with steroids, marinated in Bay Sauce and stretched to infinity and beyond.

It is the sight of half a dozen towering robots who chase and punch and shoot and talk trash at each other – sometimes in that order, sometimes in a random loop, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes in a simultaneous loop in different orders, and sometimes all of the above, all the time.

It is the sound of “dialogue” written by “screenwriter” Ehren Kruger, overlapped by the kinetic clashing of metallic entities, overlapped by the crisp explosions of everything that occupies the background, overlapped by heavy things banging on even heavier things, then finally overlapped by dialogue reacting to the things overlapping the initial dialogue.

Michael Bay

King Bay sitting on his throne

It is the genius of incorporating a “new element” in the trailer for each of the three sequels which are essentially and almost literally the same movie, where we get a stomping LEGObot in “Revenge of the Fallen”, a drilling Wormbot in “Dark of the Moon”, and finally hurtling Dinobots in “Age of Extinction”, which proven by box office records is more than enough for the price of an admission.

It is the art of sneaking countless sensual shots of sensually-dressed women in a movie I assume is meant for pre-teens, featuring not one not two but three attractive women who, despite their petite look, has more fat than talent in their body, whose names are Megan Fox, Rosie-Huntington Whitely, and Nicola Peltz, whom I imagine have all done more than just audition to get some of their roles, but I could be wrong.

It is the expression of Michael Bay’s wettest of wet dreams, which are highlighted but not limited to: the fastest of high-speed chases, the lowest of low angle shots, Robot Porn, running explosions, backflipping cars, face cannons, human-sized grenades, fire breathing, laser shooting, karate chopping, struggling actresses that need a lot “guidance” and anything that goes “Boom!” “Swoosh!” “Roar!”, and in some instances, and I’m not kidding here, “phrgpudijaihgacmlx!”

Bay’s ejaculation lasts 165 minutes, so better reserve the first row.

Transformers 4 Lockdown

It is the imagination of Industrial Light & Magic, whose employees spent hundreds and hundreds of hours constructing about five Transformers with a coherent design, a spaceship that looks nothing more than a flying junkyard (no offense to junkyards) and one generic Transformer design multiplied by fifteen, then hundreds of hours of  overtime were again spilled by these souls to make the Transformers destroy each in a matter of minutes, spread across by thousands and thousands of quick cuts, which will remain incomprehensible to the human eye for millions and millions of years to come.

I liked “Age of Extinction” in the sense that viewing it inspired me to revisit all of Roger Ebert’s pieces pertaining to the franchise, and reading him has always been a bliss, or a silver lining, depending on the movie. Early in my reading, I pleasantly discovered that a handful of his observations describe this particular installment so accurately that I might as well copy-paste them here. Because if there is anyone in this planet who deserves the Roger Ebert Treatment, it is Master Bay.

Roger Ebert

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.” – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

“There was no starting out slow and building up to a big climax. The movie is pretty much all climax. The Autobots® and Decepticons® must not have read the warning label on their Viagra. At last we see what a four-hour erection looks like.” – The Fall of the Revengers

“Finding success in a Michael Bay film is like finding the Virgin on a slice of toast, but less rewarding.” – Intro: “A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length”

“Those who think Transformers is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve. Those people contain multitudes. They deserve films that refresh the parts others do not reach. They don’t need to spend a lifetime with the water only up to their toes.” – I’m a Proud Brainiac

Beats Audio

“Age of Extinction” has more unforgettable moments than the overrated, elitist products of last year like “12 Years a Slave”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and even “Gravity”. Consider the spellbinding moment when the self-absorbed scientist played by Stanley Tucci materializes a BEATS speaker from alien technology. And who can forget the end of the spectacular chase sequence when Mark Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager crashes in a BUD LIGHT truck? Or how about that nail-biter when a Pterodactyl Transformer *Swooshes!* down a building and almost crush a bus that’s very clearly sponsored by VICTORIA’S SECRET? And lastly, what kind of “Transformers” movie would this be if it doesn’t have a shot of a building being torn apart with a SAMSUNG billboard watching in terror in the upper left portion of the screen?

Such masterful framing, King Bay. Although if those greedy producers weren’t choking your artistic ways, I’m pretty sure you could have included Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Marlboro, Apple, Sony, and Dairy Queen somewhere in your masterpiece. Quite frankly, some of your frames had “Free Space” written all over them.

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime is the movie, I am the Dinobot

Walking in the cinema, I had no idea that the 7:10PM screening I attended last Wednesday was going to be a special event. About a fourth into the film, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook the cinema for at least a full minute. Almost half of the full-house audience walked out in panic, others in caution. I stayed because (1) I’m not sure of the minimum magnitude required for a refund and (2) I really wanted to write this review in hope that someone would read this and embrace it as their silver lining.

In the instance that the earthquake was much stronger and authorities advised the audience to evacuate, I would have probably complied and walked out of the theater, but it won’t be primarily because of that damned earthquake.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past Poster

[Rating: 4] The opening shot imagines an apocalyptic future. New York is devastated and hopeless, and the first people we see are lifeless ones being dumped from a truck. A miserable crowd of humans and mutants slowly march with blank faces, … [Continue reading]

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Poster

[Rating: 2.5] What do we get after Sam Raimi’s three “Spider-Man” films released in a span of six years? “The Amazing Spider-Man”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 3”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 4”, a spin-off starring Venom, a … [Continue reading]

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

G. I. Joe: Retaliation Poster

[Rating: 2] G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a no-brainer of a movie. If a supernatural force beyond understanding urged you to like “The Rise of Cobra”, then it is likely that you will enjoy the sequel just as much. Bless you. However, if you hated the … [Continue reading]

Roger Ebert. My Hero. In Memory.

Roger Ebert at the Movies

He really was my Hero. He delivered me from a lot of the dismal possibilities of an uncertain life: the tragedy of a wasted youth, the temptation to rebel, and the confused depression of having to face a future without a path. Everyone who knew him … [Continue reading]

MOVIE JOURNAL: Oz the Great and Powerful and Jack the Giant Slayer

Oz the Great and Powerful

It’s that time of the year again where celebrities are restocking their Botox supply in preparation for Red Carpet Premiers. My prediction is that such displays of anesthetized beauty will be adequately mild in the following months, since neither a … [Continue reading]

Freedom, Updates, and the Oscars

Freedom

It is over. I am done. No. Free. Yeah. That’s the word: Free. After four years of non-education, I am finally alive again. I can’t describe the happiness. It’s like being released from prison, except prisons have better cafeteria food. Am I being too … [Continue reading]

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

An Unexpected Journey Poster

[rating: 2.5] Let me get things straight first. I enjoyed “An Expected Journey” as I was viewing it. From the film’s first half hour, I could tell that it wasn’t going to be an event as grand and glorious as any of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, … [Continue reading]

MOVIE JOURNAL: Wreck-It Ralph and Take Shelter

Wreck-It Ralph

School has been a real asshole. I know, I know. My first post since July, and I open with a grumble? I can explain. Time is so darn precious, and much of it is required by the job I have to attend to and this blog that I have to raise. That I’ve only … [Continue reading]